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I'm planning to purchase a new iPhone 5s outright (ie, not on contract) for use with one of T-Mobile's prepaid plans.

I'm wondering if it makes more sense to buy a Verizon iPhone 5s, just in case T-Mobile's service is unacceptable. I know that Verizon phones come unlocked, due to the terms of a recent spectrum purchase, but I don't know whether that applies only to the 3G bands. I also know that if I buy an unlocked T-Mobile iPhone, Verzion will not allow it to be used on their service.

Does anyone have experience with this? I'm certain the Verizon 5s will work on T-Mobile 3G/HSPA+, but I'd really like to have LTE.

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I just purchased a Verizon iPhone 5S gold and am running it on T-Mobile. I get 4G and LTE wherever it is available.

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Short answer, yes (assuming you have LTE coverage in your area by T-Mobile). But you should get the iPhone 5s from Verizon instead of getting it from T-Mobile. Also, carrier unlocking has nothing to do with 3G or LTE.

Long answer follows below.

The iPhone 5s models A1533 (GSM) and A1533 (CDMA) support the LTE bands that both Verizon and T-Mobile use.

If you look at the technical specifications for these two iPhone 5s models (A1533 GSM and A1533 CDMA), you'd notice that:

  • The LTE band coverage is the same across these two models
  • The GSM model supports only GSM (so you cannot switch to Verizon even if you want to, since Verizon is a CDMA carrier)
    [Model A1533 (GSM): UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)]

  • The CDMA model supports both CDMA and GSM
    [Model A1533 (CDMA): CDMA EV-DO Rev. A and Rev. B (800, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz); GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz); LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 13, 17, 19, 20, 25)]

So you would be better off going for the iPhone 5s CDMA [Model A1533 (CDMA)] on Verizon and then move to T-Mobile.

Also see: The Verizon iPhone 5s comes unlocked just like the Verizon iPhone 5

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I know that the phone supports the correct bands - I just would like someone with actual hands on experience who's seen a Verizon 5s work on T-Mobile LTE. After all, the current "GSM" 5s also supports CDMA, but Verizon doesn't allow any non-Verizon-sourced phones on their network –  Chris Herbert Oct 4 '13 at 16:03
    
I also wasn't sure whether the LTE bands are also unlocked on the Verizon 5s, as I thought that their agreement with the government only covered unlocking 3g bands. That article you linked to isn't conclusive, as the iPhone calls HSPA+ "4G" in the status bar. LTE is identified as "LTE". –  Chris Herbert Oct 4 '13 at 16:10
    
It also looks like you cannot buy a Verizon iPhone without a Verizon account, even if you pay full price: gottabemobile.com/2013/09/19/… –  Chris Herbert Oct 4 '13 at 16:13
    
You always have the option to activate and cancel. Since you bought full-price, there's no contract. Might get stuck with the cost of the first month. A hassle but it might be worth it if you are in a hurry as, at least in the Northwest, T-Mobile models are unavailable everywhere while there is some scattered availability of Verizon phones. As already mentioned, lock/unlock as nothing to do with the bands that can be used. It can be confusing because the iPhone 5/Verizon and iPhone 5/T-Mobile supported different LTE bands so an unlocked Verizon model could not use T-Mobile/AT&T LTE. –  Bill Tanner Oct 4 '13 at 17:30
    
'After all, the current "GSM" 5s also supports CDMA,...' - no, it doesn't. See the technical specs mentioned for the GSM model - it supports only GSM (as highlighted in the answer). The CDMA model supports both CDMA and GSM. –  M K Oct 4 '13 at 19:36
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What the specs say is irrelevant in this case since Verizon won't accept a phone that wasn't sold to run on Verizon.

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I know that. What I wanted to do was buy a Verizon phone for full price, off contract, for use on T-Mobile. The thought was that because Verizon's iPhone's are unlocked, they will work on three US carriers (Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile), while T-Mobile's unlocked iPhone will only work on two (T-Mobile, AT&T). –  Chris Herbert Oct 6 '13 at 4:00
    
@ChrisHerbert huge kudos for the intelligent question and intelligent comments. I may just pay off my early termination fee and jump to 5s for this. I'll probably take the subsidy again and pay off the contract again since that almost always works out to less than paying full price at the start. –  bmike Dec 12 '13 at 2:28
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I have the Verizon 5S and I swap my T-mobile sim and Verizon sim with no issues. I get all T-mobile bands. I am grandfathered into Verizon Unlimmited data so I have to buy all my phones full retail. Recently I decided to give T-Mobile a test run to see if it would work for me and save me a boat load of cash every month. So far I have had no issue on any T-mobile bands Edge,HSPA,LTE.

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For what it's worth, I'm using a Verizon 5s on the Rogers GSM network in Canada. LTE all the way. No issues.

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